The Chainlink

We could be in trouble here; Scheinfeld has been a strong supporter of the bicycle community.  This is not good news.

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Wow. This is not good. 

The Scheinfeld regime will be best known for its efforts to improve pedestrian safety through an ambitious “Vision Zero” program and by promoting the use of red-light and speed cameras now targeted for reduction by Mayor-elect Lori Lightfoot.

In late December, Scheinfeld argued that mayoral candidates promising to shut down Chicago’s red light and speed cameras were making a “cheap” and uninformed political play that would likely result in the death of even more pedestrians.

“It’s a cheap political thing … It’s an easy kind of reflexive thing. But that’s coming from an uninformed perspective,” Scheinfeld told the Chicago Sun-Times.

“A lot of people have sort of a knee-jerk reaction to them and aren’t actually familiarizing themselves with the facts. Speed cameras, red light cameras are proven to improve safety … This is saving lives today.”
Red light and speed cameras are a political piñata.

Both of Rahm's CDOT commissioners (Gabe Klein and Rebekah Scheinfeld) have been awesome advocates for bikes/peds in Chicago and hopefully their legacy will continue under Mayor Lightfoot's administration. In the last 8 years, we've seen a huge shift in how we utilize public right-of-way space in Chicago and this has resulted in marquee projects and initiatives like:



312 River Run trail

Chicago Riverwalk

Navy Pier flyover

BRT/Loop Link
3 new bike/ped bridges over South Lake Shore Drive

Complete Streets Initiative

Vision Zero Chicago

Safe Routes to School 

Streets for Cycling 2020 plan

It's not unusual for new administrations to bring in their own appointees for these positions, so Scheinfeld's resignation is not a surprise. She was in the position longer than most. 

Mayor-elect Lightfoot seems to be taking bike/ped issues seriously (although the desire to reduce photo-enforcement is troubling) and I'm confident that she will appoint equally qualified people to helm CDOT and continue the legacy of Rahm's administration. 

Judging from her campaign promises, it looks like Lightfoot will be pretty solid on sustainable transportation.

It's definitely a good sign that Streetsblog cofounder Steven Vance is on her transition team.

Remember that commissioners are political appointees who serve at the pleasure of the mayor. It is not uncommon for high-profile positions in particular to be replaced in a new administration. 

Chicago probably isn't as use to it given the long Daley years, but it's not surprising that likely all of the Commissioners are going to "resign" in the next few days as Lightfoot gets ready to step in.  She's going to put her own people in these top spots, and the big thing now will be making sure Lightfoot and the people she selects honor what Lightfoot said during the campaign.  

I hope both roles will be filled with solid candidates by Lightfoot so Chicago doesn't lose momentum. 

I also hope she changes her mind about red light cameras because she's in the wrong on this issue and this political move could cost lives.

Actually, Yas, it's a good bit more complicated regarding the merits of the red light and speeding cameras -- at least as far as how the programs have been implemented in Chicago to date. Contrary to its stated purpose -- that is, enhancing public safety -- it has been but another case of a "creative revenue stream" / alternative tax "gotcha." For example, it has been revealed that the timing on the yellow lights are set at the federal minimum guideline (lower/less than recommended best practices) -- which does NOT enhance traffic safety but does enhance traffic tickets.  Furthermore, the placement of speed cameras have tended to target already marginalized communities disproportionately. Although revenues generated were supposed to fund after-school programs and others that serve the kids (nice tie-in since these cameras were to be placed near schools and parks), the city never created dedicated accounts for these revenues so into the general fund/kitty it goes -- another invisible tax.

Red-light cameras don’t reduce the number of traffic accidents or injuries at intersections where the devices are installed, according a new analysis by Case Western Reserve University.

Touted by supporters as a way to increase public safety by ticketing drivers who continue through red lights, the cameras actually shift traffic patterns: More drivers tend to brake harder and more abruptly, increasing fender-benders and other so-called “non-angle” collisions.

“Once drivers knew about the cameras, they appeared to accept a higher accident risk from slamming on their brakes at yellow lights to avoid an expensive traffic citation—thereby decreasing safety for themselves and other drivers,” said Justin Gallagher, an assistant professor of economics at Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve.



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